This is the first in our new series “Estates Mistakes”
This past weekend I had occasion to set up as a seller at the Myrtle Beach Gun and Knife Show.
I was there to sell a few coins, currency, and military collectibles, but mostly I was there to promote my Auction and Estate services business.
The weekend was a great success on multiple fronts, but instead of my glory, I want to share a sad story with you.
Early Sunday morning, I had a group of five come by my table. Two middle aged women, two twenty something women, and a twenty something man. They were fixated on two showcases of coins and currency that I had for sale. I noticed them and gave my usual greeting, and got nothing in response. After a few awkward minutes of silence one of the older women spoke.
She asked me plainly, and with something of a tone of despair, “Do you really sell these things for the prices you have marked on them.”
I replied that yes, I do, but of course I am like any salesman and we can negotiate.
She was seriously in a trance like state as she followed up with “So, what does a negotiated price look like, would it be ridiculously less than what you have these marked?”
I replied that no, I price my inventory at fair market value. I will negotiate, but I will not lose money on something just to sell it.
At this, the entire group visibly tensed and there was more than one audible groan.
I was unable to contain my curiosity at this point, so I asked what the problem or concern was.
What followed was a heart wrenching story about her grandmother’s death and the subsequent handling of the estate.
After seeing my merchandise, they were convinced that the great uncle, who was the designated person for the estate, had mishandled things very, very badly.
I tried to explain that you cannot look at one silver dollar, or one old bank note and assume that what you have is worth as much, or as little. It’s all about the date, condition, rarity, etc.
At this, the young man spoke up. “I have pictures of a lot of the stuff, if you’d be willing to look.”
I said that I would.
What I saw was only about ¼ of what the grandmother left behind. I was seriously blown away.
Forgiving the inaccuracies of amateur photography of coins, tokens, and paper money, what I saw was an unbelievable collection.
A full set of Morgan dollars, not the abbreviated Dansco album set, but a legit FULL set, yes 93-S in XF and all that.
A full set of Mercury dimes.
Two full sets of Washington quarters.
Multiple 2.5, 5, 10, and 20 dollar gold pieces across multiple varieties and years.
A 90% complete large size US currency type set in what looked like XF to uncirculated condition.
Multiple 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar Gold Certificates from 1882 to1907.
Several high-grade Confederate States notes including all of the Montgomery notes.
After looking over the photos, I said that I was impressed. I said that it was an amazing collection and that if the rest of it was anything like this then they had a gold mine.
That’s when the emotions got real.
I was more than a bit confused at this point. I told them that, sure I had some nice items in my case, but nothing like what Grandma had.
That’s when one of the younger ladies spoke up.
“That’s the point” she said. “Everything was sold for less than anything you have in your cases.”
I was speechless at this.
We went back and forth for a bit more. Me trying to be sure that they understand what I have versus what Grandma had.
In the end, I was convinced. They got screwed over big time.
The saddest part of the story is that in her final years, Grandma was in seriously bad shape, and in need of advanced care. Sadly, without adequate insurance or money she had no alternatives.
If what I saw was only a portion of what she had, she seriously could have lived out her final days a hell of a lot better.
A seriously sad situation. Unbelievable!
This is why estate appraisals while a person is still alive are so important.
In this case Grandpa had put together an unprecedented collection, but everyone assumed he died broke. He left his collection to Grandma who didn’t know what she had, and when she died everyone assumed she died broke.
In the end, some seriously defective and morally compromised so called “coin dealer” took the family to the cleaners in an exponentially big way.
I’m working with this family to see if there isn’t possibly some recourse, but given what I know so far it isn’t looking too good. No one can seem to recall the name of the “dealer”.
This is just part one of Estate Mistakes, but if you take nothing else away from this series, let it be this:
Know what you have while you are living. Get an accurate and certifiable appraisal of your estate and keep it updated and current. Depending on your age, your potential heirs, and your long-term needs, you may want to seriously consider converting assets to cash for cash sake or to invest into equities. No one argue the value of cash or equity investments.
More to come on Estate Mistakes.